While you're in your seat at the Wells Fargo Center, it's tough not to notice how much orange resides in the rafters. In total, there are 28 Flyers banners hanging up there -- two for Stanley Cup championships, four retired numbers, four team Hall of Fame banners, 11 division championship banners including one with all five Atlantic Division championships on it and seven conference championship banners.
Of these, there are only a handful that are truly significant. There is no banner raising ceremony for a division championship, after all, and while the Hall of Fame inductions do include a ceremony, it's hard to consider the banners themselves all that important. After all, there are up to seven players crammed onto those things. (Of course, that's not to diminish from the accomplishments of those players, who are obviously important pieces of our history.)
So, after narrowing down, we can say that 13 of the 28 Flyers banners hanging in the Wachovia Center are true commemorations of significant accomplishments in team history.
Two Stanley Cups, seven conference titles, and the numbers of Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Bill Barber and Barry Ashbee. Tonight, the Flyers will add one more to that list as they raise the banner celebrating the 2009-10 Eastern Conference Championship.
While we will celebrate the recent past for about a half hour before tonight's game, the most important part of the evening will be the game between the Flyers and the Colorado Avalanche.
A curious question arises, then, sort of balancing out history with the present: how successful have the Flyers been in games like tonight? How have the Flyers fared when looking back at their history with a dramatic ceremony before the home opener?
October 10, 1974 - Flyers raise first Stanley Cup banner: In front of a sellout crowd at the Spectrum, the Flyers raised their first ever Cup banner prior to a game against the Los Angeles Kings. Just 2:57 into the first period, the Kings quickly tamed the crowd on a Mike Corrigan goal. Bob Kelly had a goal, two assists and four PIM, but the Flyers would eventually lose 5-3.
October 9, 1975 - Flyers raise second Cup banner, first conference banner: The '75 opener started in the exact opposite way as the '74 opener, and the results would be different as well. Bobby Clarke would score on the power play just 2:25 in and the Flyers would go on to beat the Capitals 5-4.
October 7, 1976 - Second straight Campbell Conference title: The Flyers wouldn't win three straight Stanley Cups, but that doesn't mean a banner wasn't raised to kick off the 1976 season. Prior to a game against the New York Islanders, the Flyers raised a second Campbell Conference banner to the rafters of the Spectrum. After the ceremony, it was all New York as the Isles kicked off the season with a 3-0 win.
October 17, 1977 - Yet another Campbell Conference championship celebration: Early on in this season opener against the Chicago Blackhawks, Pit Martin would give the 'Hawks a 1-0 lead. From there, it was all Flyers. They'd win 5-1.
October 9, 1980 - Another Conference title: This one was a laugher. After the first period, the Flyers were up 5-1. Pittsburgh would make a run at things in the second period with three straight goals, but the Flyers would put them away in the third and go on to a 7-4 romp.
October 15, 1985 - Wales Conference Champs for the first time: Three first period goals from Ilkka Sinisalo, Tim Kerr and Brian Propp probably should've equated to a win for the Flyers on opening night in 1985, but that wasn't the case. The New Jersey Devils scored two in the second to make the score 4-2 going into the third, and in the final frame, the Devils reeled off four straight, including a hat trick from Paul Gagne, en route to a 6-5 win.
October 1, 1997 - The first Eastern Conference title: After the first banner raising ceremony in the Corestates Center, the Flyers broke a 1-1 tie and dispatched the Florida Panthers with second period goals from Pat Falloon and Dainius Zubrus. Victory is sweet, 3-1.
October 11, 2010 - The second Eastern Conference title: what will happen tonight?
On nights when the Flyers raise a significant banner into the rafters with a dramatic post game ceremony, they're 4-3-1 in their history. If history does indeed mean anything, and tonight's ceremony suggests that yes, history means a hell of a whole lot around here, well... we don't know what to expect. In this instance, history doesn't tell us much at all.
Hat tip to Flyers History, the excellent reference site used in throwing this together.